Back in the the 1950s and ‘60s, a family trip by car was the way many Americans spent their summer vacations. Today that may no longer be the case. So the obvious question to ask is: Have we hit “Peak Travel?”
Researchers from Global Metro Studies at the University of California in Berkeley and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University studied travel trends in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, France, Germany, Japan and Australia for the years between 1970 and 2008. The study appears to show that passenger travel peaked in 2003.
The research groups plotted the distance traveled per capita per year by car, pickup, bus, airplane, train, light rail, streetcar and subway in the selected countries. They then compared the data they gathered with each country’s gross domestic product per capita. They concluded that there was a correlation between rising prosperity and passenger travel between 1970 and 2003. They said that since 2003, motorized travel has leveled out or declined in most of the selected countries. Moreover, they found that travel in private vehicles has declined.
Possible reasons for the decline include saturation in vehicle ownership, the rise in the cost of gasoline, an aging population, and traffic congestion.
The researchers say that the decline in travel and the prospect that the trend will remain the same for the coming years will help to achieve a major reduction in CO2 pollutants.